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Derek Carr eased some major concerns in Raiders close loss to Broncos, but questions remain

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Week one for the Raiders, Derek Carr caught a lot of heat. Both from the fans and his coaches. They wanted him to stand tall in the pocket, be aggressive, look downfield, and find his number one receiver. He did many of those things. But more is needed.

That’s not to say Carr lit it up Sunday in Denver. Scoring 19 points in a loss isn’t exactly a sign of an elite day. But what Carr did was check off many of the boxes he was asked to in what had to be a frustrating week after such a miserable second half against the Rams in the opener.

The most pressing concern was Carr panicking in the pocket. After being sacked by Michael Brockers last week in the third quarter, Carr collapsed and began making erratic decisions that led to stalled drives and turnovers. In this game, he was sacked twice early by Von Miller (one was wiped out by a penalty) and Carr showed no overt signs the pressure had gotten to him, leading the Raiders to 16 of their 19 points after those sacks. And he didn’t turn the ball over.

Carr threw three interceptions in the opener without a touchdown pass. He got on the board against the Broncos in the third quarter with a laser to Seth Roberts. That pass was easily his best of the season. It was a perfect strike over the middle in traffic for the score.

Equally important to the pass itself, was the timing of it.

In the second half last week, the Rams came out and scored on their opening drive with a field goal and ran off 23 unanswered points. The Broncos did one better in their opening drive of the second half, going for a touchdown. But this time, Derek Carr and the Raiders offense answered with a touchdown drive of their own.

The Raiders need to see more of that. They need a lot more of that.

The longest completion last week went for 43 yards on the opening drive, but most of that was yards after the catch by Jared Cook. And every pass over 20 yards went to Cook. He was the only part of the offense that was consistently working. And even then, two of the three interceptions were on passes intended for him.

This week, the four longest passes were to wide receivers Amari Cooper (30, 20), Jordy Nelson (23) and Seth Roberts (20T). With Cook catching a couple 20-yard passes too. So, he was still in the game plan, but it wasn’t just him.

Coop would see 10 passes from Carr, after seeing just 3 against the Rams. He caught all ten passes his way for 116 yards. That’s quite a turnaround from the 9 yards he had on one catch in the opener.

Carr had fewer yards passing in this one (288) than the opener (303), but more yards that actually mattered. He also completed 29 of 32 of his passes, which is an astounding 90.6 completion percentage. That’s the fourth best single-game completion percentage in NFL history.

What’s kind of crazy here is how he can have 29 completions and not even crack 300 yards. He didn’t even average 10 yards per completion. His longest completion (30 yards) was to a wide open Amari Cooper. So, the questions about him pushing the ball down the field and being more aggressive remain.

Some of that is him checking down and some of it is the game plan which was designed for him to throw quickly to keep pressure off of him. It’s easy for his coaches to tell him to be more aggressive, but it’s more difficult when he is called upon to keep throwing the short stuff. All he can do then is try to be efficient.

These stats and such only serve to ease some of concerns that built up this past week with regard to Carr’s ability to run the Raiders’ offense.

This isn’t some moral victory. Though when you listen to Carr speak, it sure sounds like he thinks it is. Which in and of itself is concerning.

“It’s hard for me to believe that they didn’t like [Jon Gruden’s] offense last week. That’s kind of funny to me,” said Carr. “We had well over 300 yards, we had near a hundred or over a hundred yards rushing. I think you’d take that every week, against that defense, right? And this week we moved the ball well, again against a defense…everyone just said you moved the ball, no we did some good things against a defense that doesn’t allow anything. So, I think we’re doing just fine.”

It’s one thing for me to sit here and say there are signs that he and the offense are beginning to click. It’s entirely another for Derek Carr to be in any way satisfied with how the offense has performed in two games in which they have scored a total of seven points in the second half. He should not be the least bit satisfied with that, regardless of how good the defense he’s facing supposedly is.

I get that Derek Carr is a ‘look at the bright side’ type of guy. But if you didn’t know better, you’d think the Raiders offense has been racking up points only to have the defense blow it. He did none of that. The Raiders lost 20-19. He had just one touchdown pass and the offense didn’t score in the fourth quarter. That’s not going to get it done. I can’t imagine he thinks he did his part to ensure victory, even with the numbers he had.

There’s more he can do. His performance in this game merely showed that perhaps he will. And I have no doubt that even with his flowery outlook, he will not rest on his laurels here.